Ching Chong, Tsing Tao…Close Enough

I know Marta has already posted a few times about the blatant racism and generally atrocious social awareness in Korea, but this Tsing Tao ad keeps slapping me in the face, and it’s getting really, REALLY annoying. But before we get to the ad, let me share a little story about my first week in front of the class.

A metophorical fifteen minutes ago, I had arrived in my tiny rural town and dropped off my two suitcases, luggage tags and all, in my empty apartment (wow, I have a bed! and a fridge! and a window!). I was still processing the whole holy shit I’m in Korea thing when suddenly I found myself standing in front of a classroom surrounded by eager-eyed children. They all murmured in a language I didn’t understand, some brave ones shouting questions at me. But the teacher quieted them down and told them I was only there to say hello. Tomorrow, though, I would have a presentation prepared to tell them all about myself.

RIGHT?

Umm…shit, what?! But what do I talk about?

Not to worry, my co-teacher said. You speak many languages. Why not show them some of that?

So I did. I was there to teach them about multiculturalism, after all – to be an example of how multi-lingual they could be. I speak English and French, and a spattering of Chinese (just enough to embarass myself in social situations), but hey, what’s the worst that can happen?

For one thing, I hadn’t been teased like that since gradeschool.

Although, I was in a gradeschool, after all.

I decided to keep it simple. Just a few short sentences in each language, like “Hello,” “How are you,” and “I can speak French/English/Chinese.” But holy shit on a stick, the moment I opened my mouth to say the words, “Nǐ hǎo” the classroom

ERUPTED

WITH

LAUGHTER.

“Ni hao! Ni hao!” they cackled. Some started bowing their heads in mockery.

“She she ni hao hahaha!”

“Say it again!” they begged.

“Umm…Nǐ hǎo..?”

“NI HAO NI HAO HAHAHAAA!”

I stood, flabbergasted. Then I burst out into laughter. This was absurd! They realize they’re Asian, right? Here are all these black-haired, almond-eyed kids, and they’re saying gibberish…to me? They were doing exactly the same things other kids would do to them, if they grew up in Canada. I wanted to say, “What are you doing? We’re in the same boat!” – yet here they were, teasing me. I hadn’t faced this sort of mockery in 20 years.

This brought up childhood nightmares of being asked by red-haired, freckled Wesley Harris if I ate dog and how my parents named me.

“Hey, Andrea. How do Chinese parents name their children? They throw a bell down the stairs and listen.”

“Hey, Andrea, are you and Yi brothers? You’re not? Then you’re married.”

“Hey, Andrea, what’s my name in Chinese? CHING CHANG CHONG?”

“Hey, Andrea, are you sleeping or are your eyes open? How do you see?”

“Hey, Andrea, what does this mean in Chinese? *scribbles randomly on paper*”

And of course the many variations of “Where are you from?”, “Go home”, and every shitty “dig to China” joke ever. Oh, and “Nee How Shay Shay,” because who can resist that comedic gem? Yet here I was, in Asia, surrounded by other Asians, being mercilessly teased in the most stereotypical way. I thought it was hilariously absurd…at the time.

Two years later, I’m getting really tired of this shit. It wasn’t funny back home, and it isn’t funny here. In fact, it just isn’t funny anywhere. It’s just racist and unintelligent. The cheapest laugh. At the time, I thought it was somewhat enlightening – kids are kids everywhere, they make the same stupid jokes no matter where they’re from or what they look like. But it isn’t just the kids. It’s the adults, too – some of whom have done it to my face. There’s a common joke here, which is speaking Korean in such an exaggerated mockery of the Chinese accent that the Korean sounds unintelligible. A comedian on Korean SNL has made this such a trademark of his act – a “Chinese” news reporter who always interrupts his newscast to plug Tsing Tao beer – that he scored an endorsement with the beer company. So now every time I watch a YouTube video, I’m made to endure the first 5 seconds of this horse shit OVER and OVER.

It’s basically humour like this:

Frame from the graphic novel “American Born Chinese” by Gene Luen Yang

But, you know, really widespread and deemed socially acceptable.

So here it is, the ad in question. Enjoy.


4 thoughts on “Ching Chong, Tsing Tao…Close Enough

  1. That you have shared your story about your experiences both past and present from halfway around the world and from the country where I live tells me that it is no different anywhere. I’ve wondered ever since grade school if this deeply engrained behaviour from others you have experienced will ever change. It was blatant when I was growing up at school and it still pervades my life even at my place of employment. Racisim will continue in various forms and it seems to me more acute with the availability of social media and the www. Is the avalanche of ethnic asassination ever going to stop? If beings from another world ever come to earth will they be subject to the same experiences that you Andrea have endured? Probably. Most likely. The comedic attitude to another culture that mocks and belittles their behaviours, lifestyles and appearances is the springboard to racism. Perhaps this is a generalisation on my part but having experienced this first hand including others close to me there is some truth to this. There is a degree of separation between laughter at and/or to others. We are all different and from different gene pools from which some attack other species while others mate and thrive and live and respect one another.
    May the latter predominate.

    Like

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